Opera North Blog

The Great Beauty Screening and Concert


A shimmering coup de cinema to make your heart burst… The soundtrack features some of the most stirring devotional music ever composed.

— The Daily Telegraph

This Easter the Howard Assembly Room will be filled with the sights and sounds of director Paolo Sorrentino’s extravagant love letter to Rome, The Great Beauty.

Released in 2013, The Great Beauty won an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for Best Foreign Language Film and an ecstatic reception from audiences and critics. It follows the bizarre, decadent life of aging playboy Jep Gambardella, played with extraordinary depth and nuance by Sorrentino’s long-term collaborator Toni Servillo.

"The Great Beauty is a film about sensibility, exemplified by the exquisite discernment (social, sartorial, aesthetic) of its protagonist, Jep Gambardella", says Dr Alan O'Leary, Associate Professor in Italian at the University of Leeds. "The experience of the film is like walking around Rome with Jep’s headphones on—and Jep has chosen only the most beautiful music to accompany our tour of the Eternal City."

The director describes Gambardella as “permanently drifting on the superficiality of high society”, and his disconnectedness is echoed in the dark, dreamy atmosphere of this ‘deliriously alive movie’. Its elusive but unforgettable quality is heightened by the soundtrack, which combines devotional music and minimalism with tacky Euro house. Sorrentino said he wanted the “flagrant contradiction of the city, its capacity to miraculously combine sacred and profane, [to] be echoed in the music.”

There’s a chance to luxuriate in the glowing cinematography of the film on the big screen on 8 April, and the “sacred” elements of the soundtrack are the focus for our concert on 13 April, performed by the Orchestra of Opera North under the baton of Assistant Head of Music Anthony Kraus. These pieces usher in the moments of transcendence that unexpectedly punctuate the grotesquely funny tableaux of ancient, surgically enhanced dancers, society dinner parties and crazed performance art. “The years are rolling by for Gambardella”, explains Sorrentino. “All he has left is the rapport with the nostalgia of innocence”. 

A highlight of the programme, the third movement from Henryk Górecki's 3rd Symphony is based on a Silesian folk song from the early 20th century, and will be sung by soprano Sophie Levi, a 2016/17 artist at the National Opera Studio. In its bringing together of ancient and modern, Górecki's best-known work, also known as the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, anticipates other works of 'holy minimalism' by Arvo Pärt and John Tavener that are featured in the concert.

"To bring together Górecki, Tavener and Pärt in one concert is an amazing thing", says Dominic Gray, Projects Director, Opera North, "and to hear music of this emotional depth and intensity in such an intimate setting is almost unheard of. Prepare for total immersion in awe-inspiring music”.

The Great Beauty is screened in the Howard Assembly Room on Saturday 8 April as part of the programme celebrating the 10th anniversary of the DARE partnership between Opera North and the University of Leeds.

The Great Beauty: A Concert is performed by the Orchestra of Opera North in the Howard Assembly Room on Thursday 13 April.

Concert programme

Pachelbel Canon
Arvo Pärt Festina Lente
Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis
Byrd Fantasia in G
Vladymir Martynov The Beatitudes
Tavener The Lamb
Górecki Symphony no.3 III Lento—Cantabile-semplice

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